Variety is the spice of life: A psychological construction approach to understanding variability in emotion

Cogn Emot. 2009 Nov 1;23(7):1284-1306. doi: 10.1080/02699930902985894.


There is remarkable variety in emotional life. Not all mental states referred to by the same word (e.g., "fear") look alike, feel alike, or have the same neurophysiological signature. Variability has been observed within individuals over time, across individuals from the same culture, and of course across cultures. In this paper, I outline an approach to understanding the richness and diversity of emotional life. This model, called the conceptual act model, is not only well suited to explaining individual differences in the frequency and quality of emotion, but it also suggests the counter-intuitive view that the variety in emotional life extends past the boundaries of events that are conventionally called "emotion" to other classes of psychological events that people call by different names, such as "cognitions". As a result, the conceptual act model is a unifying account of the broad variety of mental states that constitute the human mind.